What Is Sleep Regression?

A baby yawning in crib.

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Getting enough sleep is essential for the healthy development of your child. On average a baby under 3 months old should be getting between 14 to 17 hours of sleep. A baby between 4 and 11 months old needs about 12 to 15 hours. As your child gets older, they'll need a little less sleep; toddlers need 11 to 14 hours typically.

Developing a sleep routine can help make sure your kids are getting enough sleep, but it can be difficult to figure out. And just when you think you finally have the perfect method, your baby might experience sleep regression.

It’s perfectly normal for your baby to suddenly develop a poor sleep pattern. Some nights they might sleep through the night without making a peep, but on other nights they might keep you up all night with their crying. When this happens, the most important thing to do is help your baby through the regression—and get them back to their regular sleep routine. 

What is Sleep Regression? 

Sleep regression happens when your baby suddenly starts to deviate from their regular sleeping patterns. Sleep regression is a phenomenon that could happen with any baby or toddler. It’s perfectly normal, but it can quickly become frustrating for both you and your baby.

Typically, sleep regression is tied to your child's developmental growth. "You might notice a week of more night times awakenings than usual, and a week later they are suddenly saying a lot more new words, or they’ve gone from crawling to standing or standing to walking," says Navya Mysore, MD a primary care physician at One Medical in NYC.

Any change in your child's sleep habits could be sleep regression. For instance, if your baby has just started sleeping through the night, they might suddenly become fussy and wake up several times. Or they might start to refuse to sleep at naptime when they were doing it so easily before. You might also notice that they’ve become fussier or crankier than usual during the day, typically because they aren’t getting enough sleep. 

What Causes Sleep Regression? 

The most common cause of sleep regression is your child hitting a developmental milestone. Some other common causes of sleep regression include: 

  • Illness: When your child is sick they are often uncomfortable and restless. This will affect the quality of their sleep, sometimes causing it to regress.
  • Teething: Teething is a painful process for your child. The discomfort they feel as their teeth emerge can affect their sleep pattern. 
  • External changes: A huge change in your child’s life like moving houses or getting a new sibling could also cause sleep regression. 

How Long Does Sleep Regression Last? 

Although it often doesn’t feel like it (especially on days when your child can’t sleep at 2 am), sleep regression is typically short-lived. On average, it can last between a week to two weeks. The length of your child’s sleep regression depends primarily on what’s causing it.

Once this resolves, your child should settle into a new sleep pattern. "If you notice your child’s regression is going longer than this and you are unclear about why it’s happening, it’s a good idea to check in with your pediatrician to ensure there’s no other reason their sleep is being disrupted," says Dr. Mysore. Try not to be discouraged if sleep regression happens more than once. As your child grows their sleep patterns will continue to change, especially during the early years.

What Age Do Babies Have Sleep Regression? 

Sleep regression can be predictable—it tends to happen at certain developmental milestones in your baby’s life. These are the ages at which sleep regression is most likely to occur. 

4-Month Sleep Regression 

At this age, your baby is undergoing several developmental changes as well as adjusting to a new sleeping pattern. Younger babies need an average of  14 to 17 hours, but from 4 to 11 months, they should get between 12 to 15 hours of sleep. This is also when your baby is developing a circadian rhythm, which means they are more prone to waking up. Many parents report that this is the most difficult sleep regression to go through.

8-Month Sleep Regression 

Now, your baby is increasing both their cognitive and physical abilities. They've probably started crawling or even trying to stand on their own, as well as copying gestures or expanding problem-solving skills. This growth is thought to be the culprit for sleep regression at this age.

12-Month Sleep Regression 

Your baby turning one is a pretty big deal—for both of you! At this age, your baby is the most active you’ve ever seen them. Being able to walk and talk opens them up to a whole new world. Their curiosity will be at an all-time high; they're exploring the world around them and expanding their understanding. Adjusting to these developments is likely causing their sleep regression.

18-Month Sleep Regression 

When your baby turns 18 months, they likely about to start teething. This very uncomfortable process is often a cause of sleep regression. Your child is also more restless, active, and likely to resist bedtime and naptime. 

It’s important to remember that every baby is different. While these are the ages sleep regression typically occurs, you might notice your child regressing outside of these ages. This is normal! If you are ever concerned, you can speak with your child's healthcare provider.

How To Help Your Baby Through It

Sleep regression is a temporary condition. The best way to manage it is to make your baby as comfortable as they can be as they go through the process. It’s especially important not to deviate from their regular sleep routine. Maintain your baby’s sleep routine until they fall back into their usual patterns.

Remember that sleep regression is simply a change from your baby’s regular sleeping pattern, and is nothing to worry about. “Dealing with sleep regression can be very hard and exhausting so parents need to be patient with themselves," says Dr. Mysore. "Sometimes sleep regression can last up to three weeks. If that’s happening you should check in with your pediatrician." Here are some other useful tips to consider: 

  • Make changes as needed. Adjust your child’s sleep routine as their sleep patterns adjust. This might mean shorter naps or later bedtimes. While this might seem counterintuitive, it can help your child sleep soundly through the night without waking up. 
  • Stick to a strict routine. This can help your baby adjust to their new sleep patterns. “Don’t make any big changes, like dropping a nap," says Jilly Blakenship, a baby sleep consultant, and neonatal nurse. "This will help them bounce back as soon as it passes. Avoid creating new sleep crutches, like co-sleeping or rocking to sleep. Otherwise, you’ll have more to un-do once the regression is over."
  • Put your baby to bed while they are drowsy. This will help your baby to learn how to fall asleep on their own in their beds. 
  • Limit screen time. Studies show that exposure to screens, especially shortly before bedtime, can suppress melatonin, a hormone in the brain that regulates how we sleep. 

A Word from Verywell

Sleep regression can be hard on both you and your baby, but take heart in that it will eventually pass. It can happen several times throughout your baby's growth; this is normal. If you are concerned about your child's sleep or need guidance on handling sleepless nights, you can always speak with your child's healthcare provider.

6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Toketemu Ohwovoriole
Toketemu has been multimedia storyteller for the last four years. Her expertise focuses primarily on mental wellness and women’s health topics.